Barely a month ago, Baltimore school officials were trying to explain that building repairs that were not completed or not made at all were the result, in large part, of poor oversight and follow-up. City officials promised an audit of school construction funds and are now offering something that is potentially more valuable - experienced inspectors from other city agencies who can help the school system better manage badly needed repair and maintenance work.
In the past two years, new procedures and systems were put in place to keep more school capital and repair projects on track for timely completion. But routine state inspections of 40 city schools last fall found nearly 600 deficiencies, and follow-up inspections at five of the schools this year revealed that more than 60 percent of repairs that were supposed to have been made were not finished or just not done.
The schools' chief operating officer, J. Keith Scroggins, has tightened oversight of projects since taking office about a year ago. But there's much more to be done. City Hall, understandably, doesn't want to turn over a promised $25 million out of surplus funds for school construction unless it can be sure that the work can be done and managed properly. And school officials are cooperating in the early stages of a thorough audit of how school construction money from the state and city is spent.
City government, which has previously provided financial help and expertise to the school system on facilities' maintenance and repairs, is also rightly looking to do more than point fingers. City Council President Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake and Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, who chairs the council's education committee, would redeploy eight general services and housing inspectors to help the schools. Mayor Sheila Dixon, citing a shortage of housing inspectors, says eight may not be the right number, but promises to make as many inspectors available as can be safely spared.
That welcome spirit of cooperation should help ensure that the state of school buildings is not a hindrance to student learning.